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Jews of Libya say Tripoli synagogue to become library

Dar Bishi designed by Umberto Di Segni, appeal to save it

20 April, 15:15

    ROME - The Dar Bishi synagogue in Tripoli, the last one in the city, risks being turned by local authorities into an Islamic library, said David Gerbi, a representative of the Italian Section of the World Organization of the Jews of Libya.

    Gerbi is launching an appeal to save the synagogue.

    "The visit by Italian Premier Mario Draghi turned attention on Libya and turned on hope again that this Mediterranean country can soon go back to living in peace," Gerbi said in a statement.

    "We are facing a geopolitical situation that has changed gears and we have to follow the example of the extraordinary dynamic of the Abraham Accords, signed between Israel and six Arab States," he said.

    "Unfortunately, as reported by well-informed and reliable sources, local authorities are secretly turning the last synagogue in Tripoli into a modern Islamic library. We fear that in so doing, another place recognised by UNESCO will be lost, and as a consequence also the Jewish heritage of Libya, tied by a double thread to both Italy and Israel. The ancient Dar Bishi synagogue in Tripoli, designed by the architect Umberto Di Segni, a Jew of Italian origin, is at risk if the Libyan authorities do not understand that only through an act of great civility and respect for the history of the Jews in Libya, could they give the world a real sign of change and show that Libya truly has the intention of respecting human rights and freedom of religion, and in so doing, attract tourism, investments, and economic activity in a climate of security, well-being and stability," Gerbi said.

    He recalled that 54 years have passed "since all individual assets of the community of the Jews in Libya - killed, persectuted and kicked out of the country - were confiscated, as well as all collective assets and sacred places".

    "The cemetery of Tripoli where our ancestors and our illustrious rabbis are buried was destroyed, and buildings and a highway were built on top of the remains of our loved ones," he said.

    "The Dar Bishi synagogue is a historic capital of great importance. By restoring Dar Bishi and giving it back its ancient splendor, and perhaps adding a part in the back dedicated to a museum, the Libyans can be the first to profit from it. In 2022 if Libya will keep the Dar Bishi synagogue of Tripoli intact, the Jews of Libya will be able to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its construction," he said.

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